Celebrity architect Sophie Hicks’ plans to build a new home in London’s exclusive Holland Park have been thrown into disarray by neighbours who objected to the ultramodern design including a ‘gently glowing’ glass box entrance.  The Court of Appeal has ruled that a restrictive covenant benefiting the next door property allowed the owners to object to the development on aesthetic grounds.

Ms Hicks is planning to build the futurist property on a vacant plot in Holland Park.  The land was originally owned by the neighbouring property, 89 Holland Park, but was sold in the 1960s with a covenant which stated that approval must be sought from the owner of 89 Holland Park for planning permission and development.

89 Holland Park was subsequently subdivided into flats on long leases, with the leaseholders all owning a share of the freehold.

The owners of the flats objected to the design of Ms Hicks’ new home and refused to give consent for the development.  The case went to court, which decided that the leaseholders were entitled to force Ms Hicks to seek permission from the freeholder.  However the judge decided that the freeholder’s interest was limited to the common parts and external structure of the building and it could not object to the planned development on aesthetic or environmental grounds.

At appeal the judges overturned part of the High Court’s decision. They concluded that the freeholder could take the leaseholders’ views into account when deciding whether to grant permission.  It also held that it was appropriate for the freeholder to take aesthetic or environmental grounds into account.  The case has now been returned to the High Court, for it to decide whether the aesthetic grounds are a reasonable basis to grant or refuse planning permission in this specific case.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions says: “This case is important as it confirmed that leaseholders will be able to influence decision making, and this will need to be taken into account when assessing development potential. The case was also relevant in terms of the importance of aesthetic considerations. Whilst the court is still to decide whether aesthetic grounds are sufficient to refuse planning permission in this case, it is likely that aesthetics will be used as grounds for objections in the future.

Reports about the case have been published by Eversheds Sutherland and the Property Litigation Association.    

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